Some 150 films are on tap for the 11th Woodstock Film Festival, with the New York premiere of John Curran’s “Stone” set to close the event taking place September 29 – October 3 in the Upstate New York towns of Woodstock and neighboring Rhinebeck, Rosendale, Mt. Tremper, and Kingston in the Hudson Valley Catskills. Eleven world premieres, 20 U.S. and 14 East Coast debuts will screen during the fest along with 13 New York premieres (the festival will announce its opener later).
Malcolm Venville’s “Henry’s Crime” starring Keanu Reeves (U.S. premiere) will screen as a spotlight film along with Baltasar Kormakur’s “Inhale.” Reeves will be in Woodstock to receive the WFF Honorary Excellence in Acting Award during the festival’s Gala Maverick Awards Ceremony on October 2nd. Jake Scott’s “Welcome to the Rileys,” meanwhile, will have its East Coast premiere as the festival’s Centerpiece.
Other noted titles include “special screenings” of Michael Epstein’s “Lennon NYC,” Anthony Waller & Ray Kurzweil’s “The Singularity Is Near,” (East Coast Premiere) and an event dubbed, “Fright Night Friday! Double Horror Header!” with Vincent D’Onofrio’s “Don’t Go In the Woods” and Joe Maggio’s “Bitter Feast.”
In addition to Reeves, director Bruce Beresford (“Driving Miss Daisy,” “Mao’s Last Dancer”) will receive the fest’s Honorary Maverick Award, while distribution exec Bob Berney will receive the WFF Trailblazer Award.
Films screening in the Narrative Competition include “3 Backyards” by Eric Mendelsohn, “Cherry” by Jeffrey Fine, “The Colonel’s Bride” by Brent Stewart, “The Locksmith” by Brad Barnes & Todd Barnes, “Norman” by Jonathan Segal, “Stranger Things” by Eleanor Burke & Ron Eyal, “The Tested” by Russell Costanzo and “White Irish Drinkers” by John Gray.
Films in Woodstock’s Documentary Competition include “Camp Victory, Afghanistan” by Carol Dysinger, “The Disappearance of McKinley Nolan” by Henry Corra, “Gerrymandering” by Jeff Reichert, “Journey from Zanskar” by Frederick Marx, “Made in India” by Rebecca Haimowitz & Vaishali Sinha, “My So-Called Enemy” by Lisa Gossels and “One Lucky Elephant” by Lisa Leeman.
“We have an extraordinarily diverse program this year that challenges the way we perceive and think about the world,” commented WFF co-founder and Executive Director Meira Blaustein in a statement. “We are proud to present a line-up that explores our innate desire to make personal connections, while reflecting on the cautionary aspects of the changing technological and environmental landscape. We need these talented filmmakers to illuminate the dark waters, helping us see beyond current perceptions, and like so many of our films, find hope and inspiration in the future.”
Selections from the 2010 Woodstock Film Festival lineup (with descriptions provided by the festival):
Closing Night Film:
“Stone” (New York Premiere) – Directed by John Curran. Robert De Niro and Edward Norton deliver powerful performances as a seasoned corrections official and a scheming inmate whose lives become dangerously intertwined in this thought-provoking drama by the director of “We Don’t Live Here Anymore” and “The Painted Veil.” As parole officer Jack Mabry (De Niro) counts the days toward a quiet retirement, he is asked to review the case of Gerald “Stone” Creeson (Norton), in prison for covering up the murder of his grandparents with a fire. Eligible for early release, Stone needs to convince Jack he has reformed, but the line between lawman and lawbreaker becomes precariously thin. Director Curran will attend the Q & A following the film.
(Woodstock’s Opening Film will be announced at a later date.)
“Henry’s Crime” (U.S. Premiere) – Directed by Malcolm Venville. Sleepwalking his way through life, Henry (Keanu Reeves) gets an unexpected wake-up call when he becomes an unwitting participant in a bank heist. Rather than give up the names of the real culprits, he takes the fall and, having done the time, Henry reasons he may as well do the crime. Discovering a forgotten tunnel connecting the bank to a nearby theater, he recruits his old cellmate Max (James Caan) to aid in a robbery, all the while playing the lead in the theater production where he falls for his leading lady, Julie (Vera Farmiga). Keanu Reeves co-produced and will be in attendance for the Q & A following the film, along with Vera Farmiga.
(Keanu Reeves will be the recipient of a WFF Honorary Excellence in Acting Award at the Saturday Night, Oct. 2 Gala Maverick Awards Ceremony).
“Inhale” (North American Premiere) – Directed by Baltasar Kormakur. Every day, rising Santa Fe District Attorney Paul Chaney and his wife, Diane, wait for word that there’s a lung donor for their daughter, Chloe, who suffers from a rare degenerative condition. When Paul learns of a doctor who performs transplants in Mexico, he heads south in a frantic search for the only man who may be able to save Chloe. He soon realizes the doctor’s medical ring runs deep into a criminal underworld where his patients aren’t donors – they’re victims. Kormakur is Iceland’s breakout director, having won acclaim for his many films worldwide. Cast/Featuring: Dermot Mulroney, Diane Kruger, Sam Shepard, Vincent Perez, Rosanna Arquette, and Jordi Molla. Director Baltasar Kormakur will be in attendance for the Q & A following the film. Courtesy of IFC Films.
“Welcome to the Rileys” (East Coast Premiere) – Directed by Jake Scott. The Rileys have been struggling in their marriage since losing their teenage daughter eight years prior. Once a happily married couple, Lois (Melissa Leo) and Doug (James Gandolfini) have grown distant, trapped in grief. Lois has become agoraphobic and won’t leave the house, while Doug tries to escape his pain with philandering. On a trip to New Orleans, Doug meets Mallory (Kristen Stewart), a teenage runaway. Doug recognizes an innocence in Mallory, which rekindles his paternal instinct, and brings new meaning to his life. He decides to stay in New Orleans to help Mallory. Meanwhile, Lois must summon all her courage to overcome her agoraphobia and venture south before her marriage is lost. Courtesy of Samuel Goldwyn Films.
“Lennon NYC” – Directed by Michael Epstein. In 1971, John Lennon arrived in New York City and felt reborn: at last living in the country that had dominated his artistic imagination, Lennon and his new bride, Yoko Ono, found in the city the perfect blend of music, politics, culture, and lifestyle. Using remarkable, rarely seen footage and interviews with many who were close to John, filmmaker Epstein has created a moving, revealing portrait of the music legend’s New York years, detailing not only his triumphs but also some hard times over which he so beautifully recovered in the final years of his tragically curtailed life. Director Michael Epstein will be in attendance for the Q&A. Courtesy of Arthouse Films.
“The Singularity Is Near” (East Coast Premiere) – Directed by Anthony Waller & Ray Kurzweil. This fascinating doc celebrates futurist Ray Kurzweil, who, along with emminent colleagues, present their visions of the approaching ‘singularity’ where artificial intelligence begins to surpass our own, changing the face of how the human race lives and interacts. While also delving into the potential dangers on a philosophical and technological level, Kurzweil delivers an outlook of the future that is both insightful and bewildering; and imaginative and hopeful. Ray Kurzweil will be in attendance for the Q & A.
Fright Night Friday! Double Horror Header!
“Don’t Go In the Woods” – Directed by Vincent D’Onofrio. Described as Glee meets The Blair Witch Project, this ‘slasher/musical’ follows indie rock band seeking creative jam session in the woods, but people keep disappearing. Complete with solid rock soundtrack by Sam Bisbee, this offbeat horror film explores the lengths that people will go in order to make their dreams come true. Marks the directoral debut of actor D’Onofrio (Law & Order: Criminal Intent, Full Metal Jacket, Men In Black).
“Bitter Feast” – Directed by Joe Maggio (Paper Covers Rock, Milk and Honey, Virgil Bliss). Celebrity Chef Peter Gray (James LeGros) gets bad reviews and winds up fired and ruined. He uses his culinary skills to take revenge against his critic in a most macabre way. Horror genius Larry Fessenden produced and co-stars in this deliciously wicked tale featuring a cameo by celebrity Chef Mario Batali. There will be a pre-screening gourmet banquet dinner, catered by Mary Giuliani Catering & Events, with menu inspired by celebrity Chef Mario Batali, who has a cameo in the film.
Exposure: Films of Social Responsibility:
“Camp Victory, Afghanistan” (Director’s Cut) – Directed by Carol Dysinger. Providing an in-depth view of US/Afghan Army training on the ground in Afghanistan, the film confronts the American concept of victory at this critical point in US foreign policy, but it is also a story about friendship, and the unlikely bonds that form across cultural, political and social barriers.
“Gerrymandering” – Directed by Jeff Reichert. Fast-paced and thoroughly entertaining documentary tracing the ever-changing battle lines that are drawn and redrawn as politicians often seek to literally draw their closest opponents out of their districts entirely, effectively eliminating the competition. Director Jeff Reichert will be in attendance for the Q & A.
“Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer” – Directed by Alex Gibney. The Academy-Award winning filmmaker explores one of the most shocking scandals in modern American politics – the decline of crusading NYS Governor Eliot Spitzer, caught patronizing prostitutes. This intriguing doc provides unique access to the escort world as well as interviews with friends, colleagues and enemies of the ex-Governor to explore this important story of hubris, sex, and power.
“The Disappearance of McKinley Nolan” (New York Premiere) – Directed by Henry Corra, executive produced by actorDanny Glover. Touching and painful documentary showing the lengths family will go to in order to find the ones they love. At the height of the Vietnam War, Pvt. McKinley Nolan mysteriously disappeared on the Cambodian boarder, assumed to be killed, captured or even defected. Forty years later, a Vietnam veteran, returning from a visit to Vietnam, claims to have seen the missing McKinley Nolan. An investigation begins that will unearth more than just the secrets behind one missing soldier. Executive Producer Danny Glover will attend the Q & A.
“My Life with Carlos” (World Cinema) – Directed by German Berger-Hertz. A beautiful and haunting look into a political tragedy of the past through a personal lens. Director Berger-Hertz explores the repercussions of the murder of his father under orders from General Augusto Pinochet. Not satisfied with living in anger and hatred for past injustices, this doc presents a new and hopeful generation, unafraid to confront the tragedies of the past with the objective that they never be repeated.
“Inuk” (US Premiere) – Directed by Mike Magidson. Featuring an all Inuit cast (several of whom will be in attendance including adult lead actor Ole Jorgen Hammeken) and part of WFF’s environmental programming, Inuk tells the story of a sixteen-year-old boy placed in a home for troubled youth located in a small village in freezing north Greenland. Given the opportunity to go out and hunt seal with one of the local hunters, Inuk embarks on a dangerous journey into the wilderness and in doing so, confronts his troubled past. Breathtakingly beautiful. Cast members will attend the Q & A.
“Journey from Zanskar” (East Coast Premiere)- Directed by Fredrick Marx. Buddhist monks lead children on harrowing journey across the Himalayas.
“Windfall” (New York Premiere) – Directed by Laura Isreal. Exposes the advantages, and perhaps more importantly the disadvantages of wind power, as it examines wind turbine farms springing up across NY’s Delaware County.
“Sola: Lousiana Water Stories” (East Coast Premiere) – Directed by Jon Bowermaster. When author/environmentalist Bowermaster arrived in Louisiana in July 2008 to make a film about the relationship between man and water, he never expected that the reportage would end with the planet’s biggest ecologic disaster – the BP oil spill polluting the Gulf of Mexico.
“One Lucky Elephant” (East Coast Premiere) – Directed by Lisa Leeman. Taking a unique look at the life of wild animals in captivity,One Lucky Elephant focuses on Flora the beloved circus elephant. Explores the consequences of taking wild animals away from their natural habitats.
Focus on Music:
“Ray Charles America” (World Premiere) – Directed by Alexis Manya Spraic. Few American icons resonate on as many levels as Ray Charles. He was not only one of the greatest artists in American history, but had one of the greatest stories. Few came from less – dirt poor, blind and, ultimately, orphaned – to achieve more. This absorbing doc examines the social and political context of Charles’ work, and how his unique approach to music, and his ability to transcend racial barriers changed the cultural landscape as we know it. Containing unreleased music, and never before seen footage, this doc chronicles Charles’ impact in broader stories of love, politics, art and business.
“Phil Ochs: There But For Fortune” (World Premiere) – Directed by Kenneth Bowser. Music bio-documentary delves deep into the life of musical icon Phil Ochs. Civil rights. Freedom of Speech. The Vietnam War. Watergate. He wrote a song about them all, in large part creating the musical protest culture of the 60’s and 70’s. Through interviews with family and many well-known musicians who considered themselves fans of Phil Ochs, comes a vivid and compelling portrait of a controversial musical figure whose protest marked a generation. Director Kenneth Bowser will be in attendance for the Q & A, along with Michael Ochs, Phil’s brother.
“Sounds Like A Revolution” (U.S. Premiere) – Directed by Summer Love and Jane Michener. This powerful doc presents a unique historical perspective behind the new wave of protest music sweeping America and offers new hope for the future. Featuring interviews with David Crosby, Pete Seeger, Ani Difranco, Justin Sane, and Henry Rollins, the film focuses on the music and work of today’s politically-minded musicians, including Michael Franti, the Dixie Chicks and Paris, who, despite the daunting obstacles placed in their way, continue to motivate and inspire America’s youth for a positive revolutionary change.
* MUSIC PERFORMANCE by Justin Sane, lead singer of Anti-Flag will add his political punk rock sound to Woodstock’s long history of political music at The Bearsville Theater, 10pm Friday, Oct. 1, following the screening.
“Don’t Quit Your Daydream” (East Coast Premiere) – Directed by Clark Stiles and Merritt Lear. A musical adventure featuring director Stiles and his band The Good Listeners, as they embark on a last ditch, cross country, album-recording extravaganza to save their musical identity and hopefully their careers. They collaborate with mostly local, unknown and eclectic talent across the USA, to create a diverse new album, featuring an amazing compilation of talented musicians and songs. Adrian Grenier (Entourage, Love in the Time of Money, The Devil Wears Prada) returns to the WFF as a producer of the film as well as a performer.
(Music performance by The Good Listeners with Adrian Grenier at the Bearsville Theater, Thursday night, Sept. 30, following the screening.)
“Roscoe Holcomb: From Daisy Kentucky” – Directed by John Cohen. Director Cohen, a long- time member of the New Lost City Ramblers, explores the life, philosophy and music of Eastern Kentucky banjo player, coal miner and construction worker Roscoe Holcomb, who is becoming legendary in the bluegrass movement, and is cited as inspiration to many country and bluegrass greats.
(Music performance by John Cohen, performing music by Holcomb featured in this short doc.)
“Neda’s Eyes” (World Premiere/World Cinema) – Directed by Planet Pictures. Last year the world’s attention was captured by the tragic killing of Neda Agha-Soltan, an iconic, young martyr of the Iranian election protests. A non-violent protester shot by the Iranian government on June 20th, 200, her face became an icon for the world peace movement. This short film beautifully depicts her sacrifice and the struggle of non-violent protest in Iran. This short screens before “Sounds Like a Revolution.”
(Music performance by Sussan Deyhim, a composer, vocalist, and performance artist who combines her voice with technical wizardry in order to create a unique sonic and vocal language that summons rituals, and a sense of the unknown.)
“Rocksteady” (World Premiere) – Directed by Mustapha Khan. Set against the backdrop of a dirt-track racecourse, and to the sound of a thumping reggae score, by the Grammy Award-winning Reggae sensation Steel Pulse, Rocksteady is a heart-warming and highly enjoyable coming of age story.
“Arias With a Twist: The Docufantasy” – Directed by Bobby Sheehan. When outrageously original, gender-bending entertainer Joey Arias meets Basil Twist, a third generation boundary-breaking master puppeteer, the result can only be surrealistic, hallucinogenic extravaganzas, while the two perform cabaret chock full of fetishes, space aliens, B-movies and Aria’s pitch-perfect channeling of Billie Holiday. Traces the history of the 70s – 80s collaborative downtown NYC art scene, with rare archival footage.
“Five Variations on a Long String” – Directed by Peter Esmonde. Over the past quarter century, composer/performer Ellen Fullman has developed and perfected her extraordinary ‘long string instrument.’ More than fifty feet long, the instrument envelops its audience in dense masses of sound. Recorded in multichannel surround sound, this short film is an intense musical exploration of Ellen Fullman’s creative process and her mind-blowing sound world.
“Tarantula” (World Premiere) – Directed by Barry Feinstein. A familiar Woodstock legend, Barry Feinstein is an internationally recognized world-class photographer, who shot this film in 1968, possibly the first music video ever.